‘What About Bob,’ and other things only Bill Murray can get away with
Bill Murray might be America's favorite celebrity prima donna.
When he's not acting in Wes Anderson movies, we hear from him only sporadically, because he's stood up an interviewer, say, or behaved oddly at a social function where he played some ridiculous prank on someone before whispering, "No one will ever believe you." He has become his own best character, a world-weary eccentric who doesn't suffer fools lightly, and considers almost everyone to be a fool.
In Frank Oz's What About Bob, which screens at midnight this Friday and Saturday night at the Landmark Sunshine, Murray plays a man who is accepted for his absurd behavior, albeit for completely different reasons.
Bob Wiley (Murray) is a loner who lives in fear of people, unclean surfaces, Tourette's Syndrome, death, the unknown, etc. He needs help and he knows it, so he clings to his psychiatrist like a life preserver. Bob has driven his old shrink crazy, leaving his many phobias for Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), his new doctor, to deal with.
Unfortunately for Bob, Dr. Marvin, a narcissist who has no time even for his family, is going on vacation. But this does not deter Bob, who follows Dr. Marvin to his country home in New Hampshire, where he charms everybody (except Dr. Marvin) into liking him. To quote Dr. Marvin's teen daughter, "He's not crazy, he's fun!"
When Bob shows up unannounced on the Marvins' doorstep, Dr. Marvin's family greets him with curious, warm smiles. Now, this is crazy: They know nothing about Bob except that he's one of Dr. Marvin's patients who has (against the doctor's wishes) tracked him to their vacation home.
But Mrs. Marvin (Julie Hagerty) and teenage daughter Anna (Law and Order: Criminal Intent's Kathryn Erbe) are both flattered that Bob not only seems to know who they are but wants to be with them. They adore him, and continue to do so even after he overcomes Dr. Marvin's increasingly desperate attempts to make him go away. Because it's Bill Murray, this all seems plausible, and very funny.
It's a little like the public's embrace of Murray in real life; the more strangely he behaves, the tighter it gets.
Really, Murray's just behaving the way most celebrities wish they could, as when he recently took pictures of photographers at the world premiere of Moonrise Kingdom at the Cannes Film Festival, instead of making it easy for them by letting them get their shots, like everyone else did.
It happens to be fun to watch a celebrity act up. Particularly if it's Bill Murray.